Tips for Wild Camping

Learning how to wild camp (also commonly known as free camping or stealth camping) is one of the most important skills an independent bike tourist can master.

Wild Camping In Morocco

Pitching our tent under a tree in Morocco.

There are many reasons why it’s good to be comfortable with wild camping.

  • Bicycle travel is unpredictable. You never know how weather, terrain, energy levels, flat tires and other factors will affect your distance for the day. Even if you plan on sticking to populated areas and staying in campsites or hotels, these uncertainties mean you should be prepared if you don’t reach your expected destination.
  • Wild camping will help you travel on a budget. This is especially true in developed countries, where camping can be in countries where camping tends to be very expensive — sometimes almost as much as a cheap hotel.
  • Camping in the wild is often the most attractive option. Many of the most gorgeous places in the world are (thankfully) far from hotels and campsites. If you want to spend the night, you’ll need to wild camp. In some areas, you’ll also find that local campsites and hotels are overpriced or unclean, which again makes wild camping the most attractive option.
149-Rainbow cycling.jpg

Wild camping under a rainbow in Kyrgyzstan.

Dealing With Fear

For many people, the thought of wild camping is daunting. You may worry about the police coming to move you on or trouble in the middle of the night from strangers or animals.

This was certainly true for Friedel, who hardly slept at all when we first started putting our tent up in the woods. As another cycle tourist said, she could hear an ant fart in the night. If you are like this, just give it time. Build up your confidence slowly and don’t become discouraged. These types of fears are natural. The more you camp out, the more you’ll realise how safe wild camping is.

It may reassure you to know that during all of our 3-year long world trip (and the many shorter trips we’ve done since), we’ve never been troubled by anyone approaching our tent. That doesn’t mean we were never spotted but it was always a positive experience.

In the Middle East, for example, shepherds often came to find out where we were from and this would lead to invitations to meet their families. Sometimes they would return with treats like fresh bread of homemade yogurt. In India, numerous cyclists reported waking up to find dozens of people outside their tent or even inquisitive farmers unzipping the tent door to find out who was inside!

Basic Guidelines

No matter where you are in the world, you are very unlikely to be bothered by anyone as long as you are respectful and follow some basic guidelines:

  • Find a spot away from houses and hidden from any roads. You want to be out of sight of passersby. Look on your map for areas marked as woodland, which often offer good camping potential. You may also find that small hills by the side of the road can give you cover if you just haul your bike up to the peak and over the other side.
  • Don’t trespass. Look for somewhere you can camp without jumping fences or crossing onto marked private property.
  • Don’t camp in dry riverbeds as they can come to life overnight with a little rain. The rain may fall several kilometres away from you but a stream can still end up flooding through your tent! Equally, camping spots near water like a lake or riverbank can be cooler at night than more inland areas. Read more.
  • In bear country, cook at least 200 meters away from your tent. String all your food and garbage up in a tree.
  • Don’t start a fire or do anything else that might attract attention, like playing loud music.
  • Leave early the next morning. Take all your garbage with you.
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Wild camping in Spain.

If You Can’t Find A Wild Camping Spot

Sometimes it’s hard to find a wild camping spot and if this happens to you, it’s worth asking local people if they know where you could put your tent. Most people are friendly and obliging. In this way, we’ve received offers to stay in back gardens, in people’s homes or been shown safe places we wouldn’t otherwise have stayed.

In Iran and Thailand, for example, this approach led to introductions to the local police or fire brigade, who found a place for us on their land.

Such overnight stays can’t technically be called wild camping (the term ‘wild’ implies camping on unimproved land and in an area where you are hidden) but it serves the same purpose: giving you a free and safe place to sleep in an area where formal tourist accommodation isn’t an option.

Remember, however, that as soon as you start asking locals for help you may also become the star of the town. Be prepared to spend your evening talking to people or being shown around the neighbourhood. Another option, if you think that finding wild camping spots or formal hotels and campsites may be difficult in an area, is to plan in advance and try to arrange a stay with members of hospitality clubs such as Warm Showers.

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Wild camping in an Iranian field.

To read more about wild camping, try looking at these excellent thoughts by other cycle tourists:

Ken Kiefer * Mark & Juliette * Allan E. Stokell


  1. Allan E. Stokell
    11th February 2010 at 1:18 am #

    Stealth camping should not be confused with wild camping, gypsy camping or ninja camping. Please visit my website.

  2. aok
    20th August 2010 at 6:45 am #

    Thanks! Great article.

  3. warren beasley
    15th October 2010 at 10:16 pm #

    Wild camping is perfectly legal throughout Scotland (enshrined in Scots law). there are fewer more beautiful places than camping beside a loch with the mountains surrounding you.
    There are however responsibilities. check out “visit Scotland”, the national tourist site.

  4. thenomaddicts
    2nd February 2012 at 1:33 am #

    Thanks a ton for this article! Very helpful in my preparation for my first big cycling tour this summer!

  5. Paul
    13th March 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    Like many, I had little sleep the first few times I tried wild camping, but the nervousness soon dissipates and you very quickly acquire an ‘eye’ for a perfect camp spot. Occasionally, you may get moved on or find yourself in the middle of a rave but they are few and far between and the joy of waking up to a sunrise in a remote wilderness with only the sound of the birds singing is one to be treasured.

    • Sharon Smith
      21st March 2012 at 2:23 pm #

      Hiya Paul

      I was wondering if you could recommend any wild camping spots in and around mid-Wales near Dolgellau?


      • Paul
        21st March 2012 at 2:37 pm #

        Hi Sharon, I’ve never actually cycled in Wales
        so I couldn’t say for sure. However, the great
        thing about wild camping is that you don’t really
        need to plan ahead. Wales is full of wilderness,
        mountains and farms. What I’d advise to begin with
        is to try and ascertain whether a particularly
        nice camp spot may be owned by anybody who lives
        nearby and then simply knock on the door and ask
        permission. If there are no houses within sight, then
        just find a private spot away from the road and tracks
        where you’re unlikely to be disturbed and pitch a tent.
        The worst that can happen is someone will turn up in
        a 4×4 and ask you to move on, but I’ve never had that
        happen to me yet.

  6. Sharon Smith
    21st March 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    Do you know of any wild camping spots in mid-wales please? Near Dolgellau.


  7. Sharon Smith
    21st March 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Thanks for your comments Paul. I may just do that.


  8. Bob
    26th March 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    What do you do for amenities? On none of the photos that I have seen of loaded bikes are there any shovels (like a fold up one) that would allow you to dig a hole.

    So what are your recommendations when you need to go and it isn’t feasible to make it to some shops or other facilities?

    • Allan Stokell
      26th March 2012 at 9:29 pm #

      My site shows my bike with a small plastic orange shovel used to make ‘cat holes’. These holes should be deep enough to fully contain the waste and well covered over again to prevent animals from finding them. All the usual stuff and well away from water supplies. You can get more info from the Leave No Trace sites.

      I wish everyone followed these rules, some places in Germany and Italy are littered with dung piles with TP on top.


    • friedel
      28th March 2012 at 8:42 am #

      In addition to Allan’s tip, we try to avoid TP use altogether. A little water does the trick just as well. If we do use TP, we carry it out to the nearest garbage can.

      • Mr. Hygiene
        5th September 2016 at 11:18 pm #

        That’s some trick! You must have BMs like deer or bunnies, dry pellets..or you’re dehydrated.

    • Brimstone
      1st April 2012 at 6:41 am #

      Going Abroad: The Bathroom Survival Guide by Eva Newman

      I don’t like the ubiquitous plastic trowel for catholes. They don’t cut it in hard ground and they seem to dull quickly. try a Mont-Bell “Handy Scoop” which is like an indestructible large stainless steel spoon and weighs 1.3 oz,a “snow stake” wide aluminum tent stake from REI etc., or a “QiWiz Big dig” which is a hand-made titanium trowel that weighs a half an ounce.

      • Diane Vukovic
        6th October 2016 at 4:03 pm #

        Forget about a shovel. It is heavy and takes up a lot of space. Just use a good-quality “survival” knife instead. A 5-inch blade is good for digging holes.

  9. Social Camper
    23rd April 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    In England and Wales due to its welcoming rules on wild camping, Dartmoor is a safe bet, and free from the threat of angry farmers. Aim for the southern bits, well out of range of the army firing ranges in the north. In the Lake District, the shores of remote Styhead tarn are a popular wild camping spots, and provide a great base for climbing Scafell Pike or Great Gable. Also recommends a couple of spots in the Brecon.

  10. Pedal Power Touring
    2nd May 2012 at 12:31 am #

    Great write up. Thank you! Also it is great to hear that wild camping in Great Britain is allowed.

    ron & petra
    holiday, fl, usa

  11. Zeljko
    4th May 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Hi everyone

    Has anyone been in Spain i what about wild camping there?


    • Lesl and Loz
      26th August 2012 at 2:17 pm #

      We are just back from a month in Northern Spain and French Pyrenees. On a 750 motorbike, most of which we did wild camping. The people are friendly and seem to let you get on with it. We have a green tent and bike cover and camped low profile. Drinking water was readily available in nearly all villages. A fab time and less than £900 for both of us all in.

  12. Tracy
    21st May 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Hey I was just wondering – if you do any cooking at your wild camping spot… how do you deal with doing the dishes if there is no running water?

    • friedel
      22nd May 2012 at 7:36 am #

      You take extra water along or eat something that doesn’t require any clean-up (a tapas-style meal for example with olives, cheese, bread).

    • Sylvia T
      4th March 2016 at 5:10 pm #

      Carry a plastic bag and put the dishes in it till you get somewhere that you can rinse them. Alternatively take things like Wayfarer/Look what we found meals in foil pouches, you can eat straight out of them cold or hot, and then you can stash the packs in your bags for disposal when you’re on the way down and can find a bin.

  13. john
    15th June 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    I rode my first tour with no itinerary 2010-2011 spanning 13 western U.S. states and over 6500 miles. I slept on quite a few picnic tables, rest areas, remote fields and other odd places. I recieved a tip from a police officer that was very handy. “If possible ask first, If there is a posted trespass sign you can be subject to arrest, if there is no sign the most an officer can do is ask you to leave”. Most property outside city limits is fair game. Some states allow you to overnight in rest areas, and most small towns in the midwest on the old highway system will allow you to sleep in the park. This was common practice at the start of auto travel in the U.S. My favorite was a covered picnic table, I didn’t have to pitch my tent, a restroom was usually close, elevated off the ground = less encounter with biting bugs or hungry animals and I was less visiable.

  14. Tom
    7th November 2012 at 10:39 am #

    I’m trying to plan an end to end cycling trip through Italy and could do with some up to date info on wild/stealth camping. Last time i cycled in Italy i did find it quite hard to wild camp, but my route was pretty bad and i was trying to get from Aosta to Ancona as fast as possible.

  15. Damien
    14th April 2013 at 8:58 pm #


    A really interesting article on wild camping. I have mentioned in my blog as i believe my readers will find it very useful. I have also put a link to your page.

    Thanks again 🙂

    You now have a new follower

  16. Steve
    21st April 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    Hi guys,

    We are doing a 3 week tour from Verona in Italy, heading north initially then west towards the Ecrins national park in France crossing through many of the Lake regions of Northern Italy. Does anyone know how strict the rules are on wild camping or bivvying in Italy? We are a group of 6 and would be cycling until late evening and leaving early morning so wouldnt be disturbing anyone?



  17. Carl Johnston
    15th July 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Did Cairns to Newcastle Australia. Camp in mown areas, around crops and next to railway lines that are mown to prevent fires spreading and allow access to vehicles. Reduces anxiety about snakes. Most pub owners outback will let you camp out back and shower if you buy a meal and have a couple of beers. Buy Camp 6, or subscribe to online version which will give you every campsite/rest area in Australia from free to a max of twenty dollars. Every town in Australia has a show ground which usually have showers and utilised by people trailering horses, and will accommodate cyclists. Only buy a green bullet proof tent to master the art of covert cycling and will become confident enough to camp in the grounds of the local court house( did it twice). Look for superseded roads and railways.

  18. zoran
    21st July 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    My plan is to travel the world on bike and foot and camp where ever i can safely, is there any information on groups that do it, and i need to know the legality of this

    • Allan Stokell
      23rd July 2014 at 2:40 pm #

      I would recommend my website at

      Best of luck to you!


  19. Rebecca
    3rd December 2014 at 6:16 am #

    I’m cycling from Almaty to Istanbul next spring and I just wanted to say thank you so much for this post!! As well as all the other posts on this site that I’m using as guides for my route. Immensely helpful!

  20. wild
    22nd September 2016 at 9:58 pm #

    I want to camp near a lake but it is harder because you have a bigger change of getting caught, due to the view from all a cross the lake. If I want to scout do you have any tips? should i bring a coloured flag or make markings of some kind?

    I can’t find any tips around this topic

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